My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Friday, December 23, 2011

THURSDAY'S TREASURE - Turn-of-the-Century Christmas in the Horst Home, Mobile, Alabama

Vintage Christmas Postcard  ca. 1900

In my father's family research folders there are thousands of pages of notes, copies of records, letters from family and replies from officials. So it was a wonderful surprise to find a typewritten letter from Regina Lane (1893-1979), my first cousin, 3x removed. She had typed out a nine page "Horst Family Tree", writing as many names, dates and stories as she knew. On a page in the middle of the history is a story she titled "A Little Christmas Fable."

Mary Regina Altice was the oldest of three children born to Emma Elizabeth Horst (1865-1923) and Charles Monroe Altice (1864-1943). Her mother, Emma, was the the fifth of eight children born to Martin Horst (1830-1878) and Apollonia Weinschenk (1829-1908), my great-great-great-grandparents. [My great-great-grandfather was Charles Frederick Horst (1856-1912), Emma's older brother and Regina's uncle.]

Ladies Home Journal
December 1898
Regina married late in life, at age 43. On April 14, 1937, in Mobile, Alabama, she married Maurice Joseph Lane, an insurance man born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was 51 when they married. Regina and Maurice had a 3-month long honeymoon in Europe and lived in Newton, Massachusetts when they returned, a suburb of Boston. Their life together lasted only five short years; Maurice died November 1942. Regina moved back to her hometown of Mobile after his death. In her remaining years she became very involved in service to her church, St. Joseph's Catholic Church, as well as to the community. She was recognized by Pope Pius XII for her service when he awarded her the Pro-Ecclesia-et-Pontificise medal, the highest award that can be bestowed by the Pope to a non-clergy member. Regina died on June 17, 1979, at the age of 85.

In her story, Regina recounts what Christmas was like at her grandmother's home at the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th century. Her grandparents were both immigrants from Germany, the culture that introduced Christmas trees to the American Christmas celebrations. Regina's grandfather had died fifteen years before she was born, but her grandmother along with her aunt Apollonia "Appie" (1870-1942) and cousin Apollonia Manson (1894-1972) still lived in the family home Martin Horst had built after the Civil War.

Here is her story. . .

A Christmas Fable
"Christmas Eve was a most thrilling and exciting time in the Horst family life. Grandma's beautiful mansion was gay with happy grandchildren. Twenty-three she had, of course some lived in Toronto, Canada, and some in Birmingham, who wouldn't be here for the festivities.
Liberty Head Half Eagle
$5.00 Gold Coin (1839-1908)
Each Christmas time Grandma bought the largest Christmas tree she could find. It always reached to the high ceiling and was decorated in garlands of cranberries, strung on long cords, and garlands of pop corn, and many, many exquisite colored glass ornaments and balls, and tiny candle holders, holding small red candles snapped on the branch ends, and all lighted, till we stood, awe struck at the glowing sight. At about dark the door bell rang, and there was Santa Claus tinkling a bell. He was our Aunt Anna and we never even dreamed it, for we all thought he was straight from the North Pole.

Liberty Head Quarter Eagle
$2.50 Gold Coin (1840-1907)
He came into the parlor and shook each one's hand and gave use each an envelope, with a gold $2.50 piece in it. My sister Zoe always got a $5.00 gold piece in hers because Grandma loved her very much. Then we all received stockings stuffed with oranges, apples, nuts, and small gifts. All the older members of the party had wine and fruit-cake, while we had our goodies of a different kind. There was singing and the children danced, and a good time was had by all, then drowsy and tired we thanked our dear Grandma and a merry good-night was wished to all." 
Vintage Postcard ca.1908

Saturday, December 17, 2011

FRIDAY'S FAMOUS - John Howard "Jack" Nelson (1929-2009)

John Howard "Jack" Nelson, my first cousin-once removed, was born in Talladega, Alabama, on October 11, 1929.  Jack was the oldest of three children born to Barbara Lena O'Donnell (1909-1996), and Howard Nelson (1908-1985). Barbara was the younger sister of my grandfather, John Huber O'Donnell (1905-1964). Barbara had been raised by their aunt Philomena "Minnie" O'Donnell (1876-1937) after their mother Mary "Mayme" Huber (1873-1913) died from tuberculosis. Their father, John Martin O'Donnell (1865-1937), kept his three young sons, including my grandfather Huber, with him in Birmingham. Barbara married Howard on August 16, 1928, at St. Paul's Rectory in Birmingham; she was 18, he was 20. Jack was their oldest child, followed by Kenneth "Kenny" (born 1933) and Barbara Beverly (born 1939).

Jack Nelson was a highly respected journalist throughout his extraordinary career. In 1960 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. "The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American Hungarian-born publisher Joseph Pulitzer in 1917 and is administered by Colombia University in New York City. Prizes are awarded annually in twenty-one categories. In twenty of these each winner receives a certificate and $10,000. The winner of the public service category of the journalism competition the winner is awarded a gold medal which always goes to the newspaper." [from Wikipedia]

The following news article appeared in The Los Angeles Times on October 21, 2009.

Jack Nelson dies at 80; Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter helped raise L.A.Times to national prominence
Nelson's investigative coverage of the civil rights movement and Watergate helped solidify The Times reputation. Its Washington bureau grew into a journalistic powerhouse under his leadership.

"Jack Nelson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, author and longtime Washington bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, whose hard-nosed coverage of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and the Watergate scandal in the 1970s helped establish the paper's national reputation, has died. He was 80.

Nelson died of pancreatic cancer Wednesday at his home in Bethesda, Md., according to his wife, journalist Barbara Matusow.

The veteran newsman was recruited from the Atlanta Constitution in 1965 as part of publisher Otis Chandler's’s effort to transform The Times into one of the country's foremost dailies. An aggressive reporter who had exposed abuses at Georgia's biggest mental institution, Nelson went on to break major stories on the civil rights movement for The Times, particularly in his coverage of the shooting of civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo and the slaying of three black students in South Carolina in what is known as the Orangeburg Massacre.
 As the Watergate scandal unfolded during President Nixon's reelection drive, Nelson scored an exclusive interview with Alfred C. Baldwin, III an ex-FBI agent hired by White House operatives, who witnessed the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters on June 17, 1972. The stories resulting from Nelson's interview with Baldwin were the first to link the burglary "right to the heart of the Nixon reelection campaign," David Halberstam wrote in his 1979 media history, "The Powers That Be."

Named in 1975 to lead the Washington bureau, Nelson oversaw its evolution over the next 21 years into what Gene Roberts Jr., former managing editor of the New York Times and a onetime rival of Nelson's on the civil rights beat, called "arguably one of the finest bureaus ever in Washington."

'Distinguished career'

"Just his work at the Constitution would be a distinguished career for most journalists," Roberts said. "Then add that he was one of the most effective reporters in the civil rights era, all before you even get to him being bureau chief in Washington.

"All in all, I would say he was one of the most important journalists of the 20th century."

A slender man with a Southerner's easy manner, Nelson was born Oct. 11, 1929, in Talladega, Ala., where his father ran a fruit store during the Depression. The younger Nelson drew Talladega's citizens into the shop with vaudevillian humor ("Lady, you dropped your handkerchief," pause, "in St. Louis yesterday"), displaying a talent for connecting with people that would bolster his later success as a reporter.

He said that "being a reporter is a lot like being a good salesman," said Richard T. Cooper, a longtime friend and a Washington bureau editor for Tribune Co., which owns The Times. "You had to be able to sell yourself to people, convince them that they should answer your question or show you the records" or buy a bag of fruit from your father's store.

Nelson and his family moved to Georgia and eventually to Biloxi, Miss., where he graduated from Notre Dame High School in 1947. Without stopping for college (he later studied briefly at Georgia State College), the teenager launched his career by answering an ad for a job at the Biloxi Daily Herald. He was soon called "Scoop" for vigorous reporting on corrupt officials and gambling payoffs.

In 1952, after a stint writing news releases forthe Army, he joined the staff of the Atlanta Constitution. In a series of articles on Georgia's Milledgeville Central State Hospital for the mentally ill, he exposed an array of abuses, including experimental treatments of patients without consent, alcohol and drug abuse by on-duty doctors, and nurses who were allowed to perform major surgery. As a result of his reporting, the hospital was overhauled and Nelson won a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 1960.

When he joined the Los Angeles Times five years later, the civil rights movement had been underway for a decade, but The Times "had no coverage of the South. We were doing terribly covering the South," recalled former Managing Editor George Cotliar

He opened The Times' Atlanta bureau and immediately began covering the voting rights demonstrations in Selma, Ala., where on "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965, state troopers and local lawmen clubbed and tear-gassed 600 civil rights marchers en route to Montgomery. "He just annihilated every other paper. He was ahead of everyone on everything," said Cotliar, who called Nelson "the toughest, hardest-charging, finest reporter I've known in my 40 years in the business."

Nelson's stories quoted sources critical of then-Gov. George Wallace's failure to protect the marchers. According to Bill Kovach, who covered the protests for the Nashville Tennessean and later was editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the governor singled out Nelson for ridicule, pointing out to white audiences "outsiders like Jack Nelson there of the L.A. Times -- that one there with the burr haircut -- trying to tell us Alabamians how to run our state."

In 1970 Nelson experienced the wrath of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The reporter, after conducting an eight-month investigation, wrote a story about how the agency and police in Meridian, Miss., shot two Ku Klux Klan members in a sting operation bankrolled by the local Jewish community. One of the Klan members, a woman, died in the ambush.

Hoover attempted to suppress the story by smearing Nelson as a drunk, which he was not. ("What they didn't realize," the reporter later quipped to Hoover biographer Curt Gentry, "is that you can't ruin a newspaperman by branding him a drunk.") By defying Hoover, he lost his FBI sources but wrote the article, which ran on Page 1.

Twenty years later, Nelson dusted off his notes from the story and wrote "Terror in the Night" (1993), a book that described the shooting in the context of the Klan's shift from battling blacks to targeting Jews, whom it had begun to regard as the real leaders of the civil rights movement.

Nelson wrote "The Censors and the Schools" (1963) with Roberts; "The Orangeburg Massacre"with Jack Bass; "The FBI and the Berrigans" (1972) with Ronald J. Ostrow; and "High School Journalism in America" (1974).

In 1972, two years after he joined the Washington bureau, Nelson was, according to Halberstam, "one of the two or three best-known and most respected investigative reporters in Washington." But, like most of the Washington press corps, he was frustrated by the Washington Post's dominance of the Watergate break-in story.

The scales briefly tipped in favor of The Times when Nelson received a tip from colleague Ostrow that there was an eyewitness to the Watergate burglary. Nelson began knocking on doors in Connecticut, where Baldwin, the ex-FBI man, and his lawyers lived.

"He was a good reporter because he was always prepared and plain didn't take 'no' for an answer," said William F. Thomas, The Times' editor from 1971 to 1989. "That was his biggest asset . . . . Anybody who looked at the set of his jaw knew they were in for something."
After much back and forth, Nelson was granted an interview with Baldwin, who unwound a fascinating tale of his recruitment by ex-CIA man James McCord, his encounters with G. Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt, and his job monitoring wiretaps on Democratic phones and delivering sealed tapes to Nixon's reelection committee. Baldwin also told of watching from across the street as the burglary at the Watergate complex unfolded and spying Hunt slip away as the police closed in.

When word of Nelson's scoop leaked out, federal prosecutors threatened to revoke Baldwin's immunity, and Baldwin's lawyers pleaded with Nelson to drop the story. Federal Judge John J. Sirica issued a gag order, and then-Washington bureau chief John Lawrence spent a few hours in detention after The Times refused to turn over the tapes of the Baldwin interview.

The Times took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the paper. On Oct. 5, 1972, the paper ran a Page 1 news story by Nelson and Ostrow detailing Baldwin's revelations, as well as a first-person account by Baldwin as told to Nelson.

'A great victory'

Halberstam called the Baldwin story "perhaps the most important Watergate story so far, because it was so tangible, it had an eyewitness, and it brought Watergate to the very door of the White House. . . . It was a great victory for the Los Angeles Times."

Nelson became chief of the bureau in 1975, when it had 15 reporters and three editors. By 1980 the bureau was described by Time magazine as "one of the two or three best" in Washington. By 1996, when Nelson turned the job over to White House correspondent Doyle McManus, it was one of the biggest, as well, with 36 reporters and seven editors.
Known for backing his staff and pushing hard on investigative stories, Nelson made The Times a must-read for Washington's power elite. "The depth and scope of the Washington bureau under Jack was very impressive," said Roberts, the former New York Times managing editor. "We certainly paid attention to what the Los Angeles Times was doing in its Washington bureau."

In a town consumed by politics, Nelson was a well-connected insider who held a coveted seat as a regular commentator on public television's"Washington Week in Review." He brought presidents, senators and members of the House and Cabinet to The Times' offices for regular breakfast sessions with reporters that were broadcast on C-SPAN. "That raised our profile tremendously. . . . We all got our calls returnedfaster," Cooper said.
A Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and founding member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Nelson served as chief Washington correspondent until he retired at the end of 2001. In recent years he taught journalism at USC and produced a report on government secrecy as a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Gernment. In 2005 he served on the independent Commission on Federal Election Reform co-chaired by former President Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III.

In addition to his wife, his survivors include two children from a previous marriage, Karen and Mike; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren." [by Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2009]